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Starling Bank: Be unique

Updated: Apr 14, 2021

Have you ever wondered what makes a successful fintech marketing strategy? In our "How they did it" series, we look at how some of the most successful and exciting fintechs in the world have approached marketing in their early days. Learn how Starling Bank, one of UK's top challenger banks, created a whole new experience for their customers by flipping their cards design from landscape to portrait.

Starling Bank flipped their card design from landscape to portrait to differentiate and generate buzz.

Be human

Like Monzo and Revolut, and majority of the other challenger banks in the market, the mobile-only Starling Bank is focusing its business strategy and model on the consumer – ‘The Starling account is all about empowering customers.’ But an interesting aspect of its marketing strategy is that it’s taking a soft approach to acquiring new customers. Instead of aggressively shouting out loud an appeal to ‘Switch’, the company is encouraging people to try its services first and make up their own minds. This is a very smart strategy, bearing in mind the fact that people are more likely to get divorced than switch their bank account - about 40% of the UK population, for example, have never switched their bank accounts.

Thus, Starling’s ultimate marketing goal is to build trustworthy customer relationships and offer a unique user experience. To achieve this, they used a number of well-known marketing tactics that have already been successfully used by other players in the industry, such as gamification and waiting lists, getting customers involved in the development of their products and creating unique buying experience. Below is one of their most controversial and outstanding campaigns.

Create a unique user experience

Similar to Revolut’s strategy to create an attractive and distinctive packaging for their pre-paid travel card, Starling’s team have gone a step farther and taken a more radical approach designing their card. As crazy as it sounds, they decided to flip the bank card design from landscape to portrait.

Bank cards’ original horizontal design and imprinted numbers are legacy from the use of carbon copy machines in the past. But, nowadays, people use them vertically – from inserting a card into an ATM or POS terminal to filing them away in wallets. So, this is where Starling’s team saw an opportunity to improve user experience and set themselves apart from the competition by breaking the norm.

Although it seemed like a simple task, it turned out that there were a number of rules the company had to comply with before changing the design, i.e the Mastercard logo has to be in certain places, the chip can't move, the magnetic strip can't move…But the team managed to meet all of them and came up with a minimalist, vertical design that included only the chip, the bank’s name and the Mastercard logo. Personal identifiers and other details were moved to the back, and are printed rather than embossed. In terms of colours, they chose bright teal for personal and navy blue for business customers (again escaping from the norm and avoiding the usual black for business).

While the new design received some mixed reviews from customers and critics, it certainly caught the public and media’s attention and achieved the team’s ultimate goal to position the brand as a challenger and differentiate from the competition.


Starling Bank is a London-based digital, mobile only challenger bank founded by former Allied Irish Banks COO, Anne Boden. It specialises in Personal and Business Bank Accounts and Payment Services. Since its launch in 2014, the company has raised a total of £363m in funding over 8 rounds.



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